Ask Amy: A shower of holiday gifts could flower into charity

May 20, 2012

DEAR AMY: I have been remarried for 10 years and currently share a home with my wife and 23-year-old stepdaughter, who has a full-time job.

I was raised in a household where everyone who lived in the house had some responsibility to help out at home. We had chores to do, ranging from cooking to vacuuming to whatever else was necessary. My stepdaughter makes absolutely no contribution to the household and never has.

I have been trying for years to get my wife to agree with the principle that everyone should make some contribution. My wife does not agree. She believes that it’s enough that her daughter does great “outside” of the house.

I find this extremely disrespectful. This issue continues to have a major negative impact on our marriage and even 15 minutes a week of contribution is not acceptable to either of them, and so the running of the household continues to fall solely on our shoulders.

I have not been able to ignore this and cannot believe that this problem still exists after all these years. We have discussed this many times at marital therapy. Any suggestions? -- Frustrated with Conflicting Values

DEAR FRUSTRATED: It’s time for this adult to move out of the family home. I realize that this doesn’t really address your underlying issue, which is that in your household, your wife’s values have more weight than your own. In a way, I feel sorry for this young woman who has been so discouraged from demonstrating her capabilities.

I happen to agree with you that everyone who lives in a household should pitch in to help. In addition to making the household easier to manage by sharing the burden, the willingness and ability to perform household chores makes a person a better roommate and spouse later on.

You should ask your wife how she would feel if you came home one day, announced that you were doing great “outside of the house,” and that you had decided therefore to do nothing inside it.

DEAR AMY: I am in a fantastic, loving, nurturing relationship of 10 months.

I recently left my cellphone behind when leaving the house. While I was gone a woman I once dated called out of the blue a couple times during the two hours I was gone. When I returned my girlfriend brought up the calls and questioned who this woman was. I told her that it was a woman I dated almost five years ago.

Although she agrees on our fantastic relationship, part of her couldn’t understand how I could still have this woman (or any other woman I’ve dated from my past) still in my phone contacts list.

What is your opinion of having this sort of person remaining on your contact list, and a periodic platonic correspondence? -- Wondering Boyfriend

DEAR BOYFRIEND: One ritual relating to breaking up is the cleansing of the contact list from one’s devices. But I think that might be a girl thing.

There’s nothing wrong with periodic contact between exes if you’ve remained friends, but your current romantic partner should be aware of and welcomed into the conversation and your contact should be transparent.

DEAR AMY: A frequent issue brought up in your column is one of people not expressing thanks for kind gestures or gifts.

I believe you have jumped to a misguided conclusion that so many people often resort to when addressing this issue: “It must be the parents’ fault.” My parents raised my brothers and me to show appreciation and to write thank-you notes.

I am fully committed to the importance of written thank-you notes and I believe I derived these values from our parents.

My brothers and I are very close in age and were raised similarly, however one of them does not write thank-you notes and rarely gives thanks for gifts he is given. My other brother is more thoughtful.

I would be truly heartbroken if someone blamed my parents for my brother’s lack of respect. -- Always Thankful

DEAR ALWAYS: At some point, an adult has to take responsibility for his own actions, regardless of how he was raised. Thank you!

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2012 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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